When I was home for Christmas in 1996 I had lunch with Fr. Dan Colibraro. Fr. Dan was the priest I knew best while growing up. He was a great homilist and a very dear man. I had invited him to lunch to share with him the work that Brad and I had started as APeX.
As we ended the meal and were about to head for the door he stopped me and said, “Can you do one thing for me? When you are talking to all those young people could you encourage them to take some time to just reflect? Tell them they need to take time reflecting on life, on God, and on the day that has just passed. Could you do that for me?”
While trying to build a test anxiety and stress management class for middle and high school students I found a study that shows that if you spend time thinking about why you made past emotional choices you change the way your brain is wired. The change that occurs is that we gain the ability to recognize why we feel the way we feel in a moment. When this happens the mind slows down and we make better choices.
For example, you could ask me how things went and scream back, “What? Don’t you think I could do it by myself?” After the fact I could recognize the fact that I was already feeling insecure in my ability to do something and when you asked me how it went I perceived that as an accusation (even though it wasn’t).
When I take the time to think this through to see why I acted the way I acted I change how my brain is wired. The next time I am in this situation I am not going to immediately take offence to the question. I still might take offense but I will have created a small moment of thought before I emotionally react.
The more I do this process the more space I am going to create and the more I am going to make more conscious choices that I am happy with.
On Mondays and Wednesdays I help to teach an anger management to the inmates at a county jail. If they take the full class and show up for all 8 classes then they are going to get 12 – 14 hours of instruction.
Even in a one on one setting that would not be enough time to truly heal the anger they feel and to understand while they feel it.
Because of our limited time I spend most of the class teaching them tools that they can do on their own back in their unit. Today I was teaching them about the concept of how thinking about past emotional actions can change the way the brain is wired helping them to make better choices.
When they were working on a task I had assigned them I looked down at one of the guys notes. He had very carefully written down everything we had been talking about.
At the bottom of the page there was one word written. It was in all CAPS and it had two giant stars framing it. It simply read:
* R E F L E C T I O N *